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The posterior cingulate and medial prefrontal cortex mediate the anticipatory allocation of spatial attention.

Small DM, Gitelman DR, Gregory MD, Nobre AC, Parrish TB, Mesulam MM


The purpose of this study was to identify brain regions underlying internally generated anticipatory biases toward locations where significant events are expected to occur. Subjects fixated centrally and responded to peripheral targets preceded by a spatially valid (predictive), invalid (misleading), or neutral central cue while undergoing fMRI scanning. In some validly cued trials, reaction time was significantly shorter than in trials with neutral cues, indicating that the cue had successfully induced a spatial redistribution of motivational valence, manifested as expectancy. The largest cue benefits led to selectively greater activations within the posterior cingulate and medial prefrontal cortex. These two areas thus appear to establish a neural interface between attention and motivation. An inverse relationship to cue benefit was seen in the parietal cortex, suggesting that spatial expectancy may entail the inhibition of attention-related areas to reduce distractibility by events at irrelevant locations.

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